Be The Change
It is good to be passionate about issues. There are many problems in this world that need to be fixed. The poor need food, clothing, shelter, and health care. The environment needs to be protected. People around the world need aid and comfort. Unfortunately, most people (on the left and the right) don’t ask themselves “what can I DO to fix this?” The problems seem too big, and most of us have been convinced that we are too small to make a difference in a big world.
For most people, the solution is obvious: Government. Isn’t it the role of the State to fix all the problems in the world? They believe that the State should care for the poor and the environment, and fight wars against ruthless dictators around the world. These solutions come with many unintended consequences, however.
If the State were a charity, nobody would give to them because their track record is very weak and only small amounts of money actually make it to the people they are supposed to be helping. Often times they help the wrong people, or funnel the money into the pockets of special interests. The US federal government spends half a trillion dollars every year on the poor, and has absolutely nothing to show for it.
Meanwhile, this same apparatus is hard at work writing thousands of pages of regulations, which create barriers to entry into jobs which could lift people out of poverty. Counter to what we learned in public education, the State benefits from keeping people poor. Politicians maintain their power and control, and the special interests and lobbyists keep their friends with benefits.
Those who support these arbitrary restrictions believe that they protect people and the environment, but the State is the largest single polluter in the country (possibly the world). They are conveniently exempt from the same regulations that they place on the private sector. The damage to the environment done by the State is deemed necessary to protect the world from terrorists and rogue nations.
These boogie men which strike fear into the hearts of the electorate are never defeated by our military, however. In fact, they are mostly the result of foreign interventions. We were the ones who put the Shah in power in Iran. We were the ones who broke promises made to the former Soviet Union which should have kept NATO forces off the Russian border. We were the ones who trained Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen. We overthrew secular dictators throughout the Middle East, creating a power vacuum now filled by ISIS.
The problem is not just that the State is much better at creating problems than fixing them, it is that the government is not structured in a way that makes it possible. In a winner-takes-all majority rules system controlled by two parties, you have to convince people to buy into the whole platform, not just one piece. If you want more money spent addressing global climate change, you have to convince more than 60 million people not only to address that issue, but also to give up their guns and fund abortion clinics. It is a package deal, all or nothing.
Believe it or not, this is a good thing. Our government was never intended to have the power it wields today because it was only ever supposed to serve one purpose: To protect property rights. The states were enacted to allow local communities to organize and work together, and the federal government was created by the states to provide a common framework of communication between them. The federal government was never intended to affect individual citizens, except to protect their individual liberty. The Constitution is the law of the land, and does not place any restrictions on the people, only on the government.
This isn’t because the founders didn’t care about the poor or the environment. It is because they viewed problems that didn’t involve property disputes as being the responsibility of the citizenry. If you see a problem in the world, it is YOUR job to fix it. In a capitalist system, you actually have an incentive to fix things. By providing value, you can not only benefit others, but accumulate wealth. You can then use that wealth to help others in your community, or improve your own life as you see fit.
Rather than ask the government to spend more on green technologies, buy and install solar panels yourself. If you can’t afford them, invest in a company that builds the ones you like. Use go-fund-me or a similar program to raise the money for your own set-up, or give to someone else who wishes to install them. Start a charity which installs solar panels on roofs at a free or reduced cost. Start a company that does it for profit. Infest in some other technology that you think is better.
If you are worried about the poor, then reach out to charities in your own community or around the world. Volunteer, or donate items or money to the needy. Buy a meal or give some camping equipment to a homeless person. Just go talk to them and ask what you can do to help. Even better, start a business and offer them jobs. Most people would rather have the means to provide for themselves than accept a hand out.
If you see people around the world fighting for a cause you agree with, then take up arms along side them. Don’t ask someone else to go die in a foreign war if you aren’t willing to go yourself. There is a long history in this country of individuals joining the fight ahead of our armed forces, and nothing stopping you from going. Today there are Americans fighting ISIS as part of local militias. Right or wrong, they are doing what they believe in.
All of these things are direct actions that you can take. There is no middle man taking a cut. There is no majority to vote you down. Taking direct action makes a far greater difference than anything a government could do. If those people protesting the Dakota pipeline all invested in alternative energies, they could reduce the demand for oil, rather than forcing the oil companies to simply continue shipping their product on far less reliable and more dangerous rail lines. If everyone who demanded action from the State on any issue took action themselves, then many of the problems could actually be solved.
It doesn’t make sense to expect the same people who run the DMV and post office to solve the biggest problems in the world. The State is an inefficient bureaucracy, and we shouldn’t be relying on them, especially when the issue is important. If you are passionate about something, get out there and do something about it. Stop waving signs and take REAL action. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”